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Less Crowing than I Expected

October 22nd, 2006

So far, I haven’t gotten the expected wave of conservatives I thought would swarm in to gloat about the recent bankruptcy filing by Air America Radio (AAR). That, of course, doesn’t mean that conservatives in general haven’t been gloating.

Of course, what they have been overlooking is the fact that conservative outlets like Fox News and the Washington Times lost far greater truckloads of money for many years, and only survived because of super-rich sugar daddies who were willing to subsidize the news operations at their personal expense. Thom Hartman does an excellent job of outlining how Rupert Murdoch lost hundreds of millions of dollars with Fox News before it started turning a profit.

Originally, Murdoch started “News Corp,” a precursor to Fox News, which lost so much money that Murdoch had to put up his personal assets as collateral, and still almost lost everything when a Pittsburgh bank threatened to do the exact same thing to Murdoch that one of AAR’s creditors just did–demanding payment that would force a Chapter 11 filing. That’s where AAR is now, doing worse, but not that much worse. AAR is still on the air and has a good chance of staying on.

But Murdoch’s money problems did not end there. After creating the Fox News Channel in 1996, the operation lost huge amounts of money for about five years. According to Brit Hume, the über-conservative mothership lost around $80 to $90 million per year before it finally started turning a profit. Compare this to AAR losing $10 to $20 million a year. AAR went bankrupt partly because of management issues, but more so because it doesn’t have the kind of billionaire sugar daddy that conservative outfits enjoy. Conservatives would have you believe that it’s liberal programming that’s doing the damage, but by that measure, conservative programming was far more unpopular even in the conservative 90’s, because Fox News performed even worse then.

AAR has only been out there for just a few years. If it is able to survive its current bout with creditors, it still has the same chance (just as it is having the same problems) that Fox or other conservative news outlets had when they started.

And in case you think that I am just making up excuses on the fly in the face of AAR’s mortal demise, keep in mind that I and others were pointing out expected growing pains from the start. Back in the first month of AAR’s operation, I blogged about Fox News’ starting woes, and a few months later reminded readers that Rush Limbaugh took five years to get ratings worth talking about. AAR is starting from a tougher place than any of these conservative bastions did, and still has years to go before it takes them longer than Fox, Limbaugh, and others took to reach a point of profitability.

As I have noted before, I am a Mac user, so I am very much used to people crowing prematurely about the demise of a company I respect.

Not to mention that there are hopes for the future. The swing towards conservatism has ended, and the pendulum is very clearly moving back towards liberalism; the same political tide that buoyed Fox and Limbaugh and others in the 90’s is turning, and could very well sweep up the liberal voices on the air.

And AAR is not the only operation out there. The same folks who started up AAR have just started up a new network, Nova M Radio, which streams live over the Internet (listen on iTunes).

In short, the jury is still out and liberal radio’s demise has been greatly exaggerated.

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  1. Dan Z.
    October 23rd, 2006 at 03:06 | #1

    From what I can tell, AAR’s bankruptcy is directly attributable to the Evan Cohen funding fiasco at launch. Cohen and others told AAR management that they had $30 mil available to them, and management bought airtime accordingly; when the bills came due, only $6 million was available. AAR was now in debt over its head, and it is largely the debts incurred during this period that required them to declare bankruptcy.

    If they hadn’t been lied to by the people in charge of their money, they wouldn’t be in the state they are today. No company can survive when people at the highest levels are being dishonest about something so basic as operating capital.

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